Category Archives: Social Issues

Wet Hair Doesn’t Cause Diabetes

“Get in here and get dried off before you catch your death of a cold!”

How many times did you hear that growing up? Luckily, my mother didn’t cut short my playtime in the rain with that silly sentiment. Playing in the rain or going outside with wet hair does not give you a cold. Contact with several viral bodies of a rhinovirus does.  Playing in the rain or going out with wet hair may lower your body’s ability to ward off infection, which would make you more susceptible to the virus, increasing your risk of developing a cold.

The actions still didn’t “make” you get a cold any more than eating fast food “makes” you get diabetes.

diabetes memeNow, hold on there, sister! Haven’t you been spouting for months and months that the unhealthy American diet causes diabetes and heart disease?

Well, without rereading every single post, I can’t say that I didn’t phrase it that way; however, if I did, I misspoke (or miswrote, whatever). I was reminded of that this weekend when a childhood friend shared the meme you see here.  There are several different types of diabetes; but there are two main types that we’ll talk about now – Type 1 and Type 2.

Type 1 diabetes used to be called juvenile diabetes because its onset normally occurs before age 30. For whatever reason, the pancreas does not produce enough insulin. My great-grandmother had this type of diabetes and my friend’s son has it.  They both drew the short straw on this one. They were going to become diabetic regardless of what they ate or did. According to the Mayo Clinic, somewhere between 5 and 10% of diabetics have this type.

Type 2 diabetes used to be called adult onset diabetes and I’ll give you one guess to figure out why. This is the kind that I’m normally talking about when I refer to the effects of obesity. Roughly 90% of diabetics have this type. Of those, about 80% are obese. According to the International Diabetes Foundation, obesity is a factor that increases the risk of diabetes; but, it’s only one of several risk factors. None of them cause diabetes, per se, but they significantly increase the risk a person has of developing the disease. Wait a minute! What about that other 20%? The ones who are not obese? Like my great-grandmother, those diabetics drew the short straw, too. Either they were exposed to some other factor or they were going to become diabetic regardless of what they did.

The human body is a ridiculously complex organism and our environments are no less complex. How our environments and behaviors affect our bodies is, well, it’s frankly too much for me to consider this time of day. My mind is boggled at the mere notion. While we like to think that we are smart enough to know all of the answers, the billions of dollars that are spent each year in disease cause and cure research remind us that we’re not as smart as we think we are. We are still figuring the relationships between genes, environment, disease and organism. We don’t know exactly how they all fit together and, it’s my belief, that we never will.

Just as non-smokers develop lung cancer and teetotalers develop cirrhosis of the liver, people with healthy lifestyles develop diabetes. It just happens that way sometimes. Those people were either genetically predisposed for it or were affected by some other environmental factor. Have you been affected by a factor like that? Have I? There’s really no way for us to know until we develop the disease or we don’t. That’s out of our control.

So, the smart move here is to control those things that we can control, like the risk factors related to lifestyle. Eat more fruits and vegetables. Eat them in a more natural state. Exercise often.

And, for goodness sake, before you catch your death of a cold, wash your hands and don’t touch your face. Here’s a tissue.

 

 

 

 

Failingly Compassionate

You know those people who are just unfailingly compassionate? I’m talking about people like Mother Theresa and … well … Mother Theresa. I’m just like her except that I don’t have that “un” part.

I’ve been kicked in the teeth quite a few times – more times than many people I know, but fewer times than other people. Still, you’d think that having experienced some of the things that I have, I’d be a compassionate person – and I am….most of the time. At least I think it’s most of the time. Maybe I’m compassionate only some of the time. In any case, I’m not a nice person all of the time.

I try very hard to give people the benefit of the doubt or to try to see things from their perspective. I can’t always do it. When I fail, I try to keep my nasty little judgemental remarks inside my head; but, sometimes I fail at that, too.

justice-gavel-color-hiAnd I’m about to fail again right now.

If you haven’t heard yet, a 350-pound British woman is blaming the government for her obesity.  She lives in government housing (at no cost to herself) and receives welfare to support herself and her two young children. In spite of the fact that her benefits are worth an estimated $62,000 per year, gyms and healthful food options are just too expensive, she says.

Now, there are a million different ways to attack this woman’s argument and I’ve read most of them. But, the issue I have no compassion for here and elsewhere is the culture of victimhood.  I’ve been an unmarried mother. I’ve been obese (although not 350 pounds). And I’ve been poor. And, guess what? All of those things were in some way the result of my own choices. So, they were my fault (if that’s the word we want to use) and no one else’s. (Okay, so maybe not Hurricane Katrina, but most of the rest of the stuff was the result of choices I made.)

I am utterly sick to death of “it’s not my fault” or “I didn’t mean to.”

Actions have consequences. Period. They always have and they always will.

If I punch a policeman in the nose, I will be arrested. If I don’t meet the requirements of my  job, I will be fired. If I have unprotected sex, I will eventually get pregnant. And, if I fill my cabinet with Pop Tarts and the like, I will become (or stay) obese. If I stay obese, I will develop diseases like diabetes, arthritis, and heart disease. My body will hurt.

And until I accept responsibility for my current condition, I cannot change it.

As I told you yesterday, to deal with my fatigue and the food temptations that came along with it, I had to put on my Big Goddess Panties and suck it up. And we all have to do that if we are going to effect any kind of change in our own lives. (Men, you can pull up your Aquaman Underoos. If you choose Big Goddess Panties, I really don’t want to know about it. Mmmmk?)

I got into most of my fixes under my own power and I can bloody well get out of them that way, too. I’m not unfailingly compassionate and I’m not powerless either.

What It Really Takes to Earn a Gold Star

vicki lawrence mamaI’m getting old. I know it. I’m becoming Mama. I watch young adults and just shake my head asking what the world is coming to … just like I’m sure generations before me have done. Before you know it, I’ll be in a rocker on the porch yelling at kids to get off the lawn. I’m appalled at how many of them dress, at the music they listen to and at their general lack of work ethic. I’m not talking across the board here. There are a great many really terrific young adults making a difference in the world. However, I watch other young adults put in minimum effort and expect to be rewarded.

These kids have a First World Attitude Problem.

Many of them have never faced down homelessness, starvation, serious disease, war, or profound hardship. They went to school during a time when little was demanded of them; so, that’s what they gave – little. They grew up with No Child Left Behind; so, deadlines didn’t apply and the grading curve was generous. They got gold stars for mediocre work. I became aware of this situation in our education system during a parent / teacher conference when my son was in high school. As intelligent as he is, he was a less than motivated student who rarely completed his assignments on time. When one of his teachers complained about this to me, my response was simple: Fail him.

She was stunned and actually asked me to repeat myself. I did and assured her that if she failed him once, she’d likely never have to do so again. She finally admitted that she couldn’t. No Child Left Behind. So, there he was, doing less than he should have done, but still being rewarded by passing the class. This happened for too many students. That’s such an injustice not only to the students who actually work hard, but also to the students who are being passed along. For all those meaningless gold stars, they ended up with an unrealistic set of life expectations.

Gold Stars once meant something. They were instituted during World War I. Families with sons serving in the military were given flags to fly. On the flags was a blue star for every serving son. When a son was killed, his blue star was replaced by a gold one. The family earned a gold star by giving the life of their child. Most parents would agree that they’d rather earn it by giving their own lives rather than their child’s life. But that’s what a gold star really means – ultimate sacrifice.

But the concept filtered through society and ended up in the classroom where it meant that Little Johnny or Suzie didn’t talk in class or that their penmanship was neat or that they turned in a good paper. In today’s world, it can mean that they at least showed up where it once meant that they literally gave everything they had. I just don’t see that from most of the young people I know. They have grown up knowing that everyone gets a trophy whether they win or not. They know that they can be rewarded for a phoned-in performance. That’s so unfair to them! They don’t get to stretch and grow if no one requires more from them. Most of them will never realize their potential if they don’t have to. What a waste!

By coddling our children and “protecting their self-esteem,” we’ve given them a sense of self-worth that even they know is worthless. In seeking to protect them from the bumps and bruises of life, we’ve deprived them of the joy of having worked hard to earn something.

We’ve given them too many Fool’s Gold Stars.

 

 

It’s More Than a Choice

…but that’s as good a place to start as any.

262982_10151093166318197_1706639653_n

Reading through some of my posts, if you don’t know me well, you might get the idea that I’m happy-happy-happy all the time-time-time.  If you do know me well, you just soiled yourself laughing.  Go change.  We’ll wait.

Years ago, there was a book making the rounds called Happiness is a Choice.  I don’t believe that and I believe that psych wards are full of people who would agree with me.

I know people who struggle with bipolar disorder, unipolar major depressive disorder, and other psychiatric conditions that are biological in origin.  These are often endocrine issues – just like diabetes.  Who in their right mind would tell a diabetic to “Buck up! A sugar coma is a choice!” No one, right?  Yet, every day, all day long, people tell those suffering from depression that they could be happy if only they wanted it badly enough, if only they chose to be. How archaic and counter-productive.

Earlier in the week, I was discussing a bad study habit with my son.  We discussed how this habit was reinforced during his pre-college years.  Now he is dealing from the fall-out and blaming himself 100%.  He doesn’t want to be “that guy” who blames all of his short-comings on someone else.  I told him that finding the genesis of the habit isn’t blaming anyone.  It is simply examining the habit, finding its causes and edges so that he can develop workable coping mechanisms or effective habit-changing behaviors. Finding the edges defines the habit, not him. I do not believe that he is to blame for the behavior’s inception.  I DO believe that he is to blame for its continuation if, after recognizing it, he does nothing about it.

Likewise, if I know that I have depression or other biologically based mood issues, I cannot reasonably blame myself for their existence. However, I can blame myself completely if I do not develop, implement and maintain coping mechanisms or follow prescribed treatment.  Just because my body is predisposed to produce this negativity, does not excuse me from spewing into the world around me.  I’m not Vesuvius. I’m not even Italian, for goodness sake!

A positive attitude is very difficult for me on some days.  On those days, I find myself jonesing for calorie-dense foods more than usual. I find myself pulling the covers over my head rather than going for a walk.  I find myself giving in to the darkness.  While I’m not always responsible for my moods, I am still responsible for how I respond to them.  Do I take the easy road and let them win? Or do I take the harder road and fight for myself?

On Tuesday, I posted a photo I took this summer at a serenity garden on the campus of Tacoma Community College.  On that photo, I wrote, “I am responsible for the energy I bring into this space.” I don’t recall where I first heard that; but, I have it written on a photo of an F-18 on my desk, too. It’s a good thing to remember.

Maybe I can’t choose to be happy, but I can choose whether or not to be a jerk.

Celebrating 16 Failures!

She who never gives up
A constant pep-talk from my aunt/friend Judy.

Early yesterday afternoon, I was feeling super tired and ugly cranky. My colleague Ed suggested that we have a little lunch before we continued our tasks.  Coconut milk curry beef restored my body and positive conversation restored my spirit.  At our bistro table, in the warm sunshine, Ed shared with me the Theory of 17.

The basic idea is this: every success comes after 16 failures.

How many times did I try to quit smoking? How many times have I tried to lose weight? control my temper? learn a new skill? develop a new habit? change something about myself that I don’t like? I can’t really count that high: so, I’m just going to say LOTS.

It is just so easy to allow ourselves to be discouraged, to accept that we are never going to succeed, to say “forget it” and grab another doughnut, stay in a job we hate, let our tempers loose, stay on the couch, whatever. We’ve TRIED to change.  We just CAN’T.  (It works better if you whine when you read that.) One of my least favorite sayings is, “Can’t never could.”  I hate that; however, there is real truth there.

Ed also reminded me how often we give up just before the miracle.  We give up on the 14th effort, or the 15th or the 16th.  We were closer than we thought and we just barely missed it. How tragic to give up on ourelves when we are so close to being what we want to be?

In an address at Harrow in 1941, Winston Churchill said, “(N)ever give in, never give in, never, never, never-in nothing, great or small, large or petty – never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.” Obviously, he was talking about something more dangerous than a snack cake – he was talking about war.  Wasn’t he?  Let’s think about this for a minute.

The Nazis exterminated groups of people – artisists, homosexuals, Jews, Romani, etc, over the course of about 12 years.  They slaughtered some 11 million people in total, which makes for about 917,000 victims murdered annually.  According to the National Insitute of Health and the Center for Disease Control , there are some 743,000 annual deaths in the US that are directly attributable to obesity or tobacco use.  Look at that for a second.  At least 743,000 of us VOLUNTARILY kill ourselves every year with food and tobacco.  If you add in the number of us disabled by weight-related arthritis, smoking-related COPD, obesity and smoking related heart disease, we are doing a better job of committing genocide on ourselves than the most efficient genocidal machine in history. It is a Reflexive Holocaust.

We have the power to change this and we don’t need rifles or grenades to do it!  Take a walk break instead of a smoke break. Pick up a banana instead of a candy bar (or even one of those “healthy” protein bars). Create a support system.  There’s no need to be in that foxhole by yourself! You’re fighting.  I’m fighting. Our friends are fighting. There is NO shame in saying, “I’m feeling a little weak right now, help me through this, would you?” There is no shame in failing.  There is shame only in the refusal to try. If WWII ended with VE Day and VJ Day, then we can have VMe Days.

Try! Fail! Celebrate that failure and know that you are one failure closer to celebrating VMe!

Walking Boys Home

The summer I was 18, my mother insisted that we visit the American cemetery at Omaha Beach.  Before we left for France, my father insisted that we watch the movie “The Longest Day.” With all of the arrogance of a then 17-year-old, I watched the movie and thought that it was misnamed.  It should have been “The Longest Movie.”

At the cemetery, I saw a veteran on the walkway, openly weeping.  My life began to change.

On the hillside, you can still see where the mortars hit.  Children splash through the gentle waves right where young men died. How incongruous!  As I stood looking at the English Channel and at that beach, I imagined the noise, the smoke, fog, confusion, smell of cordite, blood and saltwater.  What I did not imagine until I watched “Saving Private Ryan” was those dying, young men calling out for their mothers.  Every time I watch the opening sequence, I cry so hard I can’t breathe.

But that day in 1985, I wasn’t a mother.  I didn’t think along those lines.  I was a teenager, a recent high school graduate, a kid with her whole life laying out in front of her.

These rocks were among the few things I was determined to salvage from my post-Katrina home.
These rocks were among the few things I was determined to salvage from my post-Katrina home.

At the cemetery, there are stark rows and rows of crosses and stars marking the graves. There are porticoes with enameled maps detailing the invasion and subsequent troop movements. There is  beautiful rose garden. And, behind that beautiful rose garden is a marble wall carved with names.  I didn’t walk through the rows of graves, but I read those names from one side to the other.  Those were the names of the missing – those soldiers took direct hits, drowned and never reached the shore, or whose bodies were carried from the beach by the tide before they could be recovered.  And those soldiers were 17. 18. 19.  They were my age. They were my friends. They were Joey, Dow, John, Lee, Rob, and Carlisle.

They were my age and they were living it – seeing those sights, smelling the odors, hearing the sounds and running through the chaos I could only imagine.  They were stepping over the bodies of friends they’d played poker with the night before. They showed a level of bravery I have never had to show, hope never to have to and , truly, can’t even imagine. They were kids and they took Europe back one inch at a time.

Last week, I wrote about my childhood friend who is a deployed chaplain in the army.  He has accepted the challenge to run a total of 300 miles before his deployment ends in September.  I was giving him a hard time about being an old man and needing to get it in gear, then I remembered three rocks from Pointe du Hoc and a Christmas gift I once gave.

I gave my aunt a box of receipts.  I saved the receipts from every single purchase I made that year. I started on 1 January and gave it to her on Christmas.  She said that it was the best gift she’d gotten because, although it started as a joke, I had thought of her every time I bought something. That shoe box was a tangible display of loving thoughts.

I told Ronnie that I would walk/run those 300 miles with him, then I challenged you to join me.  Several of you have and I’ll be posting updates on your mileage on Saturdays (so be sure to email them to me at runningwithronnie@yahoo.com).  Those steps, those miles will be receipts to those soldiers we don’t know.  Politics aside, with every step we make, we are thinking of them, wishing them a safe and speedy return home.  Although I’ve referred to only the masculine soldiers, we are talking about our sons, daughters, sisters, brothers, mothers and fathers.  We want them home and if it helps their morale even the tiniest bit to know that strangers are praying for them, sending them good wishes, positive thoughts, or whatever with every step we take, then I say it’s worth it.

This weekend, five of those soldiers were lost.  Let’s walk the rest of them home.